ABU DHABI, 23rd February 2016 (WAM) — French President Francois Hollande has acknowledged that nuclear weapons tests carried out in French territories in the South Pacific had consequences for the environment and the health of residents, the Paris-based television channel France24 reported on its website.

Hollande, visiting French Polynesia, praised the region’s contribution to France’s role as one of the world’s few nuclear powers. His remarks were aired on French television Tuesday.

He pledged to review efforts to compensate people who suffered because of the tests.

“I recognise that the nuclear tests conducted between 1966 and 1996 in French Polynesia had an environmental impact, and caused health consequences,” he said.

Hollande said he wanted to “turn the page” on nuclear tests, while hailing Polynesia’s crucial role in developing France’s nuclear capabilities.

France’s “nuclear debt” owed to Polynesia, dubbed the “Chirac Billion”, is an annual payment to the islands that has been reduced year after year, and which Polynesians want to be made permanent.

France carried out 193 nuclear tests between 1966 and 1996 on the atolls Mururoa and Fangataufa.

Hollande also announced a review of the application process for compensating the victims of the tests. Only around 20 people have received compensation for the spread of cancers allegedly linked to the tests from among some 1,000 plaintiffs, according to the channel.

Without its overseas territories, “France would not now have nuclear weapons and the power of dissuasion”, Hollande said, using the French expression for nuclear deterrence